A Journey Of A Thousand Miles

Friday, 15 September 2006, 20:55 | Category : Walks
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It was about this time last year that I started walking. I’ve walked for most of the past 52 years, of course. I’ve even had periods when I walked regularly for exercise. But last fall I started again, and haven’t stopped. Almost every morning, generally around 6:00, I step out my door and begin the morning ramble. For the next hour, I’ll take one of several routes, or variations on a route, and walk while the day comes alive. In many ways, it’s the best part of my day. I’ve worn out two pairs of shoes along the way, solved innumerable personal, local, regional, and world problems (although typically I’ve forgotten the solution by the time I get back home). I’ve “met” several people, regulars who are also out early. We speak as we pass by each other. I don’t know their names, but I’ve named them in my head. There’s Norm, who I have decided is a transplanted Yankee, who never speaks but does this arm-lifting thing with his elbow at a 90-degree angle as he goes by. There’s Dianne, who runs with a sort of stiff gait, but who I’ve decided runs 5 miles or more each day. Quan Tri is, I think, Korean. She doesn’t walk every day. She always stares at the ground ahead of her, until she gets about ten feet away. Then she looks up, smiles faintly, waves, then looks back at the ground ahead of her. I’ve already mentioned Abigail, whose name I do know. There’s Two Dog Lady, who has appeared recently walking two large boxers, who never seem happy to see me. I hope that lady has good control over those dogs.

Like I said, I’ve been very regular at this for a year. It has occurred to me recently, that I’ve walked a thousand miles, probably more, because I sometimes add an evening walk. But a thousand is a good number to contemplate upon.


After a long, hot summer, the mornings are cool again. And with the sun rising later, it’s dark when I begin. Right now, Orion is riding high in the southeast. On clear mornings, I can watch as the fainter stars in that constellation fade, until only Betelgeuse and Regulus are still visible in the brightening sky. Just below Orion, Sirius, the brightest star in our sky, stays visible almost until the sun rises. I watch as the eastern sky begins to turn a faint gray, then lighter into deep blue, then rosy-pink as the sun comes up. The transition from dark to bright occurs surprisingly fast. One moment the trees are silhouetted against the early dawn sky, the next there is a swollen orange orb shining through.

It’s that moment just before the sun actually rises when I see deer, if they’re out. There are two places I sometimes see them, one at the edge of a new subdivision being built, where the houses under construction push up against the remaining woods, the other at the edge of a schoolyard where another patch of woods lingers. I don’t know if the deer know their days here are numbered, but they have to feel the pressure as their habitat disappears. I wonder how that feels – do the deer truly have a memory of a time just a few years ago when several hundred acres along my route were a combination of woods and meadows? I last heard coyotes about five years ago, and in that five years my community has changed from a town to a small city. I think about this while I walk. One route crosses what was an open pasture two years ago, but now has streets and fifteen or so houses under construction, with more to come as soon as they can be hammered together. I wonder why undeveloped land is such an affront to some people.

Another thing my walk has done is make me more opposed than ever to those automatic sprinkler systems in residential lawns. I see them running in light drizzle, in heavy rain. But mostly what I see is lots of water running off the lawn and into the storm drains. My personal estimate is that at least half of the water sprayed out through those systems every morning is wasted. And they shouldn’t be watering their lawns every day anyway. That develops a shallow root system that will cause the grass to die during times of drought unless the water is applied constantly. Grass doesn’t want to be watered every day. But every morning I pass the same lawns being watered and overwatered by a grid of popup sprinkler heads, spraying water onto grass and driveways and sidewalks and streets. And I hear the sound of water rushing through the storm drains.

So I walk, and walk, and walk. I think it’s helped my knees, holding the arthritis at bay. Along with watching what I eat, the walking has helped me lose forty-five pounds since March 1. I’ve walked through all four seasons now. I know now I can walk in temperatures as low as 24 degrees F. I’ve walked in temperatures as high as 97F – obviously not my morning walk! I’ve walked in sun, in rain, in light sleet. I’ve learned that you really do eventually begin to look at it not as something you have to do, but as something you want to do. I wake up ready to get out of bed and walk. And I get to spend a little time with the world, with the stars, the rising sun, and just a few friends. It’s not a bad way to start the day.